Note the highlighted text below. Question; Why would they even consider building anything less than levees capable of withstanding a category 5 storm? Did they learn NOTHING from Katrina?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051215/...NlYwMlJVRPUCUl


Feds to Rebuild New Orleans Levees By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 42 minutes ago


WASHINGTON - President Bush will request $1.5 billion more to help rebuild the levee system in New Orleans, the top federal official for reconstruction announced Thursday.

"The levee system will be better and safer than it's ever been before," Donald Powell said at the White House.

At a news briefing, officials dodged the question of whether the levees would be built to a Category 5, using broader language instead to promise that the city's citizens would be safe and the levees would be "stronger and better."

"The federal government is committed to building the best levee system known in the world," said Powell. "It's a complicated issue."

The announcement came after Bush met in the Oval Office with Powell, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We understand that the people of New Orleans need to be assured that they're going to be safe when they get back home, that their city has an infrastructure that is capable of sustaining a possible storm next season or in the seasons afterward," Chertoff said.

Katrina, a Category 4 storm, surged through the city's levees at numerous points when it struck on Aug. 29, killing more than 1,300 people in Gulf Coast states. Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other Louisiana officials, as well as businesses and homeowners, have argued that the levees must be improved to protect against Category 5 storms if the New Orleans metropolitan area hopes to persuade people to return.

Nagin thanked Americans for the money to rebuild New Orleans and told former residents of the city to come home.

"It's time for you to come back to the Big Easy," he said. "This action today says come home to New Orleans."

Nagin said the levee system will be stronger than ever.

"These levees will be as high as 17 feet in some areas. We've never had that," he said. "We will have the holy trinity of recovery levees, housing and incentives."

Officials said the levee system would be rebuilt to its previous level of protection before the hurricane season next year, and that the process of strengthening them further would take two years.

Nagin acknowledged that the most heavily devastated areas of the city Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward were not ready for returning residents, but he promised they would be eventually. He suggested that officials may need to find housing elsewhere in the city in the meantime.

"At the end of the day, our entire city will be rebuilt," he said.

Powell said that design and construction flaws will be corrected within the levee system. The $1.5 billion that the president is requesting would pay to armor the levee system with concrete and stone, close three interior canals and provide state-of-the art pumping systems so that the water would flow out of the canals into Lake Pontchartrain.

Breaches at both the 17th Street and London Avenue canals allowed flood water to inundate large areas of the city from close to Lake Pontchartrain to the edge of downtown. These areas which included several universities as well as thousands of homes and businesses likely would have been spared widespread flooding if the levees had held up against pressure from water that rose above normal levels but did not flow over the top of the flood walls.

Chertoff said the federal government has already provided $5.2 billion in direct assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, but the government also needs to provide hope to the victims.

On Capitol Hill, meantime, Senate tax-writers embraced the casinos, golf courses and liquor stores as part of a roughly $7 billion program of tax incentives to rebuild Gulf Coast businesses damaged or destroyed by hurricanes.

The Senate could act as soon as Thursday on a package of tax breaks and other assistance that fulfills Bush's call for a special business zone in the Gulf Coast. Lawmakers hurried to finish the bill before taking a holiday break. The House earlier had denied including the casino and other businesses in the tax relief.

The House last week passed its own package of aid. Its key benefits matched the Senate and included increased write-offs for small business investments and an additional write-offs for other businesses purchasing equipment and new property.